Collaborating for Social Good / Collaborer pour le bien collectif

David Phipps, RIR-York
What happens when 88 people get together to talk social innovation? You get the start of a Regional and systems level response to address persistent social challenges. You also get to dance!
Que se passe-t-il lorsque 88 personnes se rassemblent pour discuter d’innovation sociale? Vous obtenez l’émergence d’une réponse à des défis sociaux persistants, et ce, à l’échelle régionale et systémique.
Collaborating for Social Good was sponsored by the conference series « Business Innovation in Changing Times” a capacity building series for York Region designed to accelerate innovation and business growth. On April 18, delegates from the private, public and non-profit sectors came together to discuss how to collaborate to create social benefits. There were 29 delegates from the non-profit sector, 35 from business, 11 from education and 13 from government. York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit was pleased to be part of the steering committee. We also were an exhibitor and presented on a panel with Women’s Centre of York Region and ventureLAB.
Much of the day was spent mind mapping to identify drivers, issues (“burrs”) and opportunities. Maps were developed and shared and commented upon. In the end the maps were synthesized into opportunities/challenges for York Region. A group of 25 participants came together on May 13 to continue the dialogue. These 25 were comprised of 10 from business, 6 from government, 3 from education and 6 from the nonprofit sector. This group came together to begin to address the two social innovation priorities derived from the mind map synthesis: 1) knowledge transfer; and, 2) taking risks.

mind maps
Mind maps

Three things were striking from this event:

  1. There were more private sector than non-profit sector participants: often the non-profit sector dominates the discourse of social innovation. This has been true at York’s Knowledge Mobilization Forums and at many of the knowledge mobilization events we have held in York Region. Collaborating for Social Good seems to be the start of a new conversation where business has an equal voice.
  2. This was a Region wide conversation: there was no dominant sector or municipality.
  3. Knowledge transfer – sharing across sectors – was identified as a priority for the Region.

Huge shout outs to Kirsten Eastwood (Women’s Centre of York Region) and the York Region Social Innovation Collaboration for their time and talents in organizing and executing this wonderful event.
We also embedded some arts based activities. Two poets from York University attended and interpreted the day in poetry. Sara-Jane Gloutnez composed « Cubism » and she collaborated with Christian Quaresma on an “Untitled” poem. These poems capture some of the thoughts and themes of the day in a style that is both foreign and familiar at the same time.
And thanks to Seneca College we danced. Seneca sent three students who led us in some Zumba and Latin dance. This was an amazingly successful activity. You have to trust each other when dancing. You also need trust for a successful collaboration.
Dance may just be a novel vehicle for knowledge mobilization!

Attendees dancing Zumba for collaboration
Dancing for collaboration